Marriage on the Downturn

A significant amount of the media coverage about the deliberations of the Synod on the Family was about whether those who are divorced and re-married outside of the Church could receive Communion.

No data has been forthcoming on the number of people who are in this situation, but some recent reports show a significant trend away from marriage in the first place. Thus, while divorce is without doubt a serious problem, if people do not even marry at all then the institutions of marriage and the family are in trouble.

The first study comes from the English organization, the Marriage Foundation. The Oct. 10 report revealed that the United Kingdom has the highest proportion of children living in lone parent households of all the countries in Western Europe.

According to the statistics agency of the European Union, Eurostat, 24% of UK children lived in lone parent households in 2012. This is almost identical to the 23.8% figure produced by the UK’s Office for National Statistics. While lower, the average level for the EU countries overall is still at 16%.

A number of countries had levels over 20%, including Belgium, Denmark, France, and Ireland.

Some major Western European countries have relatively lower levels of single parenthood, such as Italy at 12%, but even so it is on the rise, compared with 9% in 2005.

“These figures are alarming. Evidence clearly shows the negative impact of being brought up in single parent homes,” commented Harry Benson, Research Director for the Marriage Foundation.

“These children are less likely to attain qualifications, more prone to experience unemployment and are more likely to commit crime,” he said.

Unmarried parents

Analysis of the statistics by the Marriage Foundation, Benson explained, shows that in Western Europe the rising levels of lone parenthood is not the result of divorce, but the result of a dramatic increase in the number of children brought up by unmarried parents.

In the UK, for example, the divorce rate has fallen in recent years, while the number of lone parent households continued to rise.

“We need to restore trust and confidence in marriage for the sake of generations to come,” Benson insisted.

The proportion of lone parent households is set to increase in the future, as a result of ever-increasing numbers of children being born outside marriage.

Even in Mediterranean countries the percentage of births outside marriage, which were very rare until a couple of decades ago, is reaching high levels. It Italy it is at 28%, Spain 36% and Malta 26%. In the UK it is at an alarming 48%.

In Eastern Europe by contrast the main contributor to single parent households is still divorce.

The cost to society of single parenthood is very high. According to the report in the UK the cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown is estimated at 46 billion pounds a year, more than the defence budget.

A similar situation exists in the United States. A Sept. 24 report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends found that the number of American adults who have never been married is at an all time high.

In 2012, one in five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. By comparison in 1960 only 9% in that age range had never been married.

The Pew report noted that a number of factors have contributed to this change. In part it is due to people marrying at a later age, but the number of adults cohabiting and having children outside marriage has also increased substantially.

Never married

According to projections by Pew Research, when today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (25%) is likely to have never been married.

While economic considerations are far from being the only factor in changes in patterns of marriage nevertheless national fiscal policies do have an influence.

A report just published by Ireland’s Iona Institute, titled “Taxation and the Family: Restoring Balance and Fairness,” accuses the government of weakening support for the family by means of the tax and spending policies.

In the last few decades the tax system has been changed to take less account of dependents, especially children, in the family home. This, the report said, is a form of individualization as each taxpayer is considered as an individual and it ignores the children and other dependents they may have.

This means that the one-income married family is at a great disadvantage compared to two-income families and single parent families.

Marriage and family life face grave challenges. Going beyond the media hype and publicity by special interest groups, the work of the Synod will be essential if the Church is to deal effectively with these problems.

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Pope to Consistory: We Are Witnessing a Phenomenon of Terrorism

Dedicating this morning’s Consistory of Cardinals to the Middle East, and particularly the region’s Christians, Pope Francis has called on the international community to do their part as well as his fellow prelates to protect those suffering in the war-torn region.

Addressing the Consistory of Cardinals convened this morning at the Vatican just one day after the close of the Synod of Bishops on the family, Pope Francis said, “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East without Christians, who for 2,000 years have professed the name of Jesus.”

“From this meeting today,” Francis said he expects “that valid reflections and suggestions may come forth to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering and also confront the tragedy of the decrease of the Christian presence in the land where it was born and where Christianity was spread from.”

The Pope reaffirmed the Church’s desire for peace in the region while calling on the international community to find a solution to the conflict through “dialogue, reconciliation and political commitment.”

At the same time, he noted, “we would like to give the greatest possible support to the Christian communities, to maintain their stay in the region.”

The 77 year old Pontiff also expressed his concern and worry with the current conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq.

“We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism in an unimaginable dimension,” the Pontiff said, recalling how many are being persecuted and forced to flee brutally.

“It seems that the awareness of the value of human life has been lost, it seems that the person does not count and can be sacrificed for other interests,” the Pope said. “All of this,” he continued, is “unfortunately because of the indifference of so many.”

Fr. Lombardi on Consistory

In a briefing at the Holy See Press office, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, spoke on the consistory, and the addresses made by the Holy Father and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He also confirmed the presence of 86 cardinals, patriarchs, and superiors of the Secretariat of State at this morning’s consistory.

Fr. Lombardi stressed their call upon the international community, particularly to provide, to the Christian refugees, the opportunity to return to their homes as soon as possible, implementing the “security zones”, for example in the Nineveh Plain.

These interventions echoed the theme of the Vatican meeting, called for by Pope Francis, of Middle Eastern nuncios and diplomatic representatives held at the Vatican October 2 to 4.

His remarks, echoed by a communique issued by the Holy See today, also “called for an appeal to all the people kidnapped in the Middle East, so that the world will not forget them.”

Soon after, thirty interventions were given by the cardinals and patriarchs present in the Synod Hall.

The Patriarchs of Churches in the Middle East, in particular, have described situations and the main problems of the respective Churches in their respective countries, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Generally, the interventions focused on certain principles: the need for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, the defense of religious freedom, and support for local communities, the importance of education to create new generations capable of dialogue between them, and the role of the international community.

Regarding the first point, Fr. Lombardi explained, it was stressed that the Middle East has an urgent need to redefine its future.

The importance of Jerusalem as “the capital of the faith” for the three great monotheistic religions was underscored, as well the need to arrive at a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Syria.

Moreover, the spokesman reiterated their reaffirmation that, “In the face of violence perpetrated by ISIS, it was confirmed that you cannot kill in the name of God.”

Religious Freedom

The Vatican spokesman noted that freedom of religion and conscience, is a “fundamental human right,” one which is “innate and universal” for all mankind.

In addition to this right, the cardinals also stressed the need for Christians to recognize all the civil rights of other citizens, especially in countries where religion is not currently separated from the state.

Turning to how to support local communities in the region, Fr. Lombardi said: “It was confirmed that a Middle East without Christians would be a great loss for all, since they have a vital role in maintaining the balance of the region and for the great effort in the field of education.”

The communique noted that, “It is therefore essential to encourage Christians to remain in the Middle East and persevere in their mission, because they have always contributed to the well-being of the countries in which they live.”

Migration of Christians

Reflecting on the issue of migration of Christians, the consistory confirmed that those migrating “must find acceptance in the churches and in the States to which they migrate with the hope to also have adequate pastoral structures for the different rites.”

Furthermore, it was required to continue the delivery of humanitarian aid in the Middle East, that Christians are encouraged to stay on site and cultivate the various manifestations of solidarity possible by the churches in other countries, even with travel and pilgrimages.

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Texas and its assault on the churches and faith

This action by the government to subpoena these pastors that have voluntarily filed with the IRS comes as no surprise to me. This part of the tax code is working as intended when introduced in 1954 by of Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. Since this portion of section 501(c)(3) was ratified and approved most uninformed churches in America have organized as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt religious organizations.

I have never understood why any church would file for a 501c3 when it is not required. This voluntary contract places restrictions upon any 501c3 church. 501c3 churches are prohibited from addressing the vital issues of the day. By becoming a 501c3 the church have made an contract that says a church or organization may not openly speak out in opposition to, anything that the government declares as legal, even if it is immoral, doing so that church would then jeopardize its tax exempt status.

In the U.S.A. churches have always been Tax Exempt, the First Amendment clearly places the church outside the jurisdiction of the civil government. Since churches aren’t taxable in the first place, I have always wondered as have knowledgeable IRS employees why do so many of them go to the IRS and seek permission to be tax-exempt?

In order for certain organizations to be considered for tax-exempt status by the IRS an organization must fill out and submit IRS Form 1023 and 1024. However, note what the IRS says regarding churches and church ministries, in Publication 557:
Some organizations are not required to file Form 1023. These include:

Churches, interchurch organizations of local units of a church, conventions or associations of churches, or integrated auxiliaries of a church, such as a men’s or women’s organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group. These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).

According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):
Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(c) Exceptions.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.

Thus, we see from the IRS’ own publications, and the tax code, that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for tax-exempt status. In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-exempt.”

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions

You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.

In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-deductible.”

Not only is it completely unnecessary for any church to seek 501c3 status, to do so becomes a grant of jurisdiction to the IRS by any church that obtains that State favor.

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Economics for Ecclesiastics

On October 10 and 13 the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross launched a ground-breaking academic program, Economics for Ecclesiastics. Brian Griffiths, a member of the British House of Lords and former economic policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, taught the university’s first two inaugural lectures to a capacity-enrollment of priests, nuns, seminarians, and lay students from developing and industrialized nations.

For most of the religious students specializing in theology, philosophy, communications, and canon law, the three-module economics course means navigating a new field of human inquiry – one filled with complex charts, graphs, mathematics and an entirely different ‘lingo’ to learn.

Economics for Ecclesiastics also represented the pontifical university’s first foray into teaching economic principles while at the same time presupposing the moral-theological teachings of the Church.

Moral judgments on issues such as fair prices, living wages, material wealth, and poverty are inevitable and welcome during classroom discussion. However, the new course concentrates on a ‘positive’, ‘scientific’ study of economics – on the empirical, objective how and what we know about economic realities, as opposed to the ‘normative’, ‘prescriptive’ aspect about how economic behavior and systems should ideally be.

While a prescriptive approach to teaching economics is of vital interest to the students, who in their professional and religious lives must assess political-economic values when preaching, giving pastoral counsel to business persons, and being effective in their missionary work, the course’s director, Msgr. Martin Schlag, has a different vision.

Msgr. Schlag is moral theologian who created the course with philosophy professor colleague Dr. Juan Andres Mercado as part of the university’s already successful Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Center. Together they have a ‘first-things-first’ approach.

Schlag expressed concern that religious students have long needed a broader, more “expert approach” to analyzing economic findings prior to making value judgments about specific economic conditions, actions and systems in their own experience. “Ethics has an important role to play both in economic agency and in epistemology, since every human act is always also an ethical act,” he said. Yet “morality plays a lesser role in epistemology”, that is, in how we first come to know and comprehend various economic realities. “It excludes certain aims from the object of economics, and it is possible to bridge the gap between the epistemological and moral spheres.”

This is what Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus, co-authors of the textbook in use, mean when they say that in order for economic justice to occur economics students must have “cool heads at the service of warm hearts.”

Indeed, this also echoes the “Francis effect”, where religious and lay professionals, inspired by the new pope, are now more than ever eager to discover how to actually help ‘the least of these’ —those who suffer gross economic injustice on a daily basis. Therefore, they are encouraged not simply to hope and pray that economies fix themselves, but actually develop practical wisdom about wealth creation and human flourishing on an anthropological level.

In his first lecture, “Determination of Market Prices”, Lord Griffiths introduced some core economic concepts, such as supply-demand curves, input-output, price equilibrium, perfect-imperfect competition, inelasticity-elasticity, market failure, externalities, variables, and scarcity. “Economies are complex and require careful study”, he said, referring to the tens of millions of exchanges that occur every day in commercial trade.

One inquisitive student raised the issue regarding the actual effect 40 million aborted children has had on supply and demand curves for commodity and labor markets in the United States, while others debated practical examples of how price equilibriums are reached in inelastic and elastic demand curves.

Milk is an example of a “commodity that has high inelasticity”, said Griffiths. The demand tends to be steep for essential, staple items of “our daily bread”, he said.

“People will be willing to pay high price for milk and bread –up until a certain point, of course,” he said while discussing the latest example of price fluctuation of milk from 31 to 27 pence in the United Kingdom. “There are also variables and externalities”, he said, that can drive prices down such as “health concerns”, citing a recent drop in British dairy consumption and price due to studies released correlating fatty whole-milk products to heart disease and obesity.

Session II, “Government and Markets”, focused on the definitions of basic economic models: free market capitalism, command-and-control economies, and “mixed versions” which combine elements of free exchange with some level of government intervention. “There really is no pure market or pure command economy”, said Griffiths. “Virtually every contemporary economy is a mix of both.” He said it is really a question of percentage of which has more market exchange or more government involvement in the overall macro-economic balance.

Some technical policy discussion centered on the effect which government subsidies, tariffs, import substitution, regulation, and price ceilings have had on developing and industrialized economies. Extreme examples, as during war-time Britain, included radical effects on price and supply curves due to government rationing of commodities, like butter, and large-scale import bans.

The next two modules of Economics for Ecclesiastics – “Inflation and Debt” and “Entrepreneurs, Growth, and Poverty” – will be co-taught by Lord Griffiths and Dr. Antonio Argandoña, emeritus professor of economics and business ethics at Spain’s leading MBA program, I.E.S.E. Between module lectures, the Markets, Culture and Ethics Research Center will offer students and professionals ongoing seminars on economic history and business ethics.

Michael Severance is Operations Manager at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Rome.

(October 15, 2014) © Innovative Media Inc
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Pope’s Angelus Address

At the end of the Holy Mass celebrated in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, the Pope handed the book of the Gospels – printed in large letters – to some elderly people in attendance. The same volume was also distributed after the ceremony to participants yesterday morning in St. Peter’s Square.

Before the concluding rites of the Mass, the Holy Father prayed the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Here below are the words of the Pope in introducing the Marian prayer:


“Before concluding this celebration, I wish to greet all the pilgrims, especially you who are elderly who have come from many countries. Thank you!

I extend a cordial greeting to the participants of the conference-pilgrimage “Singing the Faith”, organized on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the choir of the diocese of Rome. Thank you for your presence, and thank you for this lively celebration with singing, alongside the Sistine Chapel. Continue to carry out with joy and generosity the liturgical service in your community!

Yesterday in Madrid, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo was beatified; his exemplary Christian witness and the priesthood can bring about in many the desire to adhere more and more to Christ and the Gospel.

Next Sunday we will begin the Synodal Assembly on the theme of family. This is the principal responsibility of Cardinal Baldisseri. Pray for him. I encourage everyone, individuals and communities, to pray for this important event and I entrust this intention to the intercession of Mary, Salus Populi Romani.

Now let us pray together the Angelus. With this prayer, we invoke Mary’s protection for the elderly throughout the world, especially for those who live in situations of greater difficulty.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]
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Ascension Catholic Community Ministry of Intercession for June 2013

God answers all our needs. Please pray the following intentions this month.

For the Holy Father’s intention that a culture of dialogue, listening, and mutual respect may prevail among all people.

We pray that where secularization is strongest, Christian communities may effectively promote a new evangelization.

May all those who are out of work sense God’s presence, providing hope, strength and jobs that allow each person to best utilize their talents.

We pray for all those who have lost their lives in service to our country and for their families who mourn.

Lord Jesus, we ask for safety of all who will be traveling this month.

Holy Spirit, guide all the victims of the recent tornadoes and help the community to do all in its power to alleviate their suffering.

Lord God, we pray for all unborn babies, keep them safe from abortion.

As we approach the storm season, Lord, we ask your protection from bad weather.

Lord, we ask you may comfort all those living with mental and physical pain.

We pray for all the sick and suffering members of our worldwide family and their care givers and all who have died recently.

May you have a blessed month,

Father Eamon and the Ministry of Intercession

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Ascension Catholic Community Ministry of Intercession for May 2013

In times of tragedy and pain we believe, O God, that you are with us. Please pray the following petitions this month.

For the Holy Father’s intention that administrators of justice may act always with integrity and right conscience.

We pray that seminaries, especially those of mission churches, may form pastors after the Heart of Christ, fully dedicated to proclaiming the Gospel.

God Our Father, we pray for all those who lost their lives and those who were injured during the Boston Marathon and the explosion in Texas. For all the families who were traumatized by these horrible events.

Holy Spirit, guide all first responders to tragic events, including clergy and counselors, who try to help the grieving to deal with the painful events of life.

We pray that we live out our baptismal calling, sharing the Gospel with others through our words and actions.

We pray for all those receiving their First Holy Communion that they will always love Jesus.

God Our Father, we thank you for the gift of Mary, our heavenly mother, and for our mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers and those who nurture in place of mothers.

Holy Spirit, inspire all graduates to use the gifts that You have given them to fulfill their role in life. Guide them in their career choices.

For the sick and suffering members of our worldwide family.

May you have a blessed month!

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Ascension Catholic Community Ministry of Intercession for April 2013

Happy Easter everyone: Please include the following in your daily prayers this month. I call upon you God, for you will answer me; bend your ear and hear my prayer.

For the Holy Father’s intention that the public, prayerful celebrations of faith may give life to the faithful.

That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.

Lord Jesus, bless the families of Ascension Parish this Easter Season. May we experience your risen presence in our hearts.

Jesus, comfort all those who receive bad news this day. May they have strong faith and good friends to comfort them.

That people who have difficulty forgiving those who have caused them pain may open themselves to God’s grace and learn to forgive.

We pray that believers may recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of the Risen One who accompanies them in daily life.

Lord Jesus, we pray that those in authority may govern with justice and truth, so that human life may be safeguarded, regardless of age or health.

May our world be blessed with more priests and religious willing to devote their whole lives to God and His Church.

For those who have died, especially our relatives and friends, that they may enjoy eternal peace in the kingdom of heaven.

The peace of Christ be with you

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Central Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica
Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Brothers and sisters, good evening!

You know that it was the duty of the Conclave to give Rome a Bishop. It seems that my brother Cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth to get one… but here we are… I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome now has its Bishop. Thank you! And first of all, I would like to offer a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may keep him.

[Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…]

And now, we take up this journey: Bishop and People. This journey of the Church of Rome which presides in charity over all the Churches. A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world, that there may be a great spirit of fraternity. It is my hope for you that this journey of the Church, which we start today, and in which my Cardinal Vicar, here present, will assist me, will be fruitful for the evangelization of this most beautiful city.

And now I would like to give the blessing, but first – first I ask a favour of you: before the Bishop blesses his people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that he will bless me: the prayer of the people asking the blessing for their Bishop. Let us make, in silence, this prayer: your prayer over me.


Now I will give the Blessing to you and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.


Brothers and sisters, I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me and until we meet again. We will see each other soon. Tomorrow I wish to go and pray to Our Lady, that she may watch over all of Rome. Good night and sleep well!

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Saint Adrian of Canterbury

Saint Adrian turned down a papal request to become Archbishop of Canterbury, England, Pope St. Vitalian accepted the rejection on the condition that Adrian serve as the Holy Father’s assistant and adviser. Adrian accepted, but ended up spending most of his life and doing most of his work in Canterbury.

Born in Africa, Adrian was serving as an abbot in Italy when the new Archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Canterbury. Thanks to his leadership skills, the facility became one of the most important centers of learning. The school attracted many outstanding scholars from far and wide and produced numerous future bishops and archbishops. Students reportedly learned Greek and Latin and spoke Latin as well as their own native languages.

Adrian taught at the school for 40 years. He died there, probably in the year 710, and was buried in the monastery. Several hundred years later, when reconstruction was being done, Adrian’s body was discovered in an incorrupt state. As word spread, people flocked to his tomb, which became famous for miracles. Rumor had it that young schoolboys in trouble with their masters made regular visits there.

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